Adventure-ing: Random Acts of Kindness

1,000 random acts of kindness. 1,000 is a lot. I figure it’s going to take me several years to complete this goal. Several years of intermittently being aware that I should probably do something a little less selfish, rather than sit on the couch and play World of Warcraft for 4 hours at a time.

A few months ago I was crossing the Bay Bridge and I, on a whim, decided to pay the toll for the car behind me. The toll attendant was happy to take my extra money, and then as I sat in traffic I watched the exchange behind me in my rear-view mirror. I had never done this before, although I had seen it on Oprah several years ago, and I’ve heard stories of it happening to other people. The couple behind me seemed happy and looked at my car, ahead of them, but didn’t wave or anything in particular. They just sort of turned to each other and chatted, and I imagined them marveling at the kindness of strangers, chatting about me, about how they were going to have a really great day. I dunno, it was kind of thrilling, even if most of it happened in my head. And it felt great! And it made me want to do happy things like that all of the time!

But then, I sort of forgot about it, because it really does take energy, thought, and being in the right place at the right time. And then I got to thinking, “well, what actually constitutes a ‘random act of kindness’?”. I spent an evening last week, while having trouble sleeping, discussing this with Kamel. We came up with a list we were sure constituted as such:

Paying for strangers’ bridge tolls (of course)
Feeding stranger’s parking meters (possibly illegal)
Buying groceries for homeless
Send packages overseas to the troops
Putting change in a vending machine, then walking away (no lauren, do not eat the cookies! BACK AWAY)
Opening the phone book and sending a random person something nice (a kind note, a gift card, etc)
Baking for the neighbors (who knows their neighbors? maybe I could start)
Dropping off teddy bears to Fire Stations
Sticking happy notes in books at a book store
Giving up your seat on a plane and flying standby
Donating to Locks of Love

Happy things that don’t actually count as random acts:

Donating all the clothes I really don’t like to the GoodWill (useful, yes, too self serving for this project, also yes)
Bringing in goodies for co workers (sorry guys!)
Doing anything, no matter how random or spontaneous, for family and friends
Donating money to organizations
Giving free hugs (it challenges my boundry issues, plus it seems a slight bit pervy)

Basically, I want to challenge myself and keep an awareness that involves helping. If you have an ideas or suggestions please comment!

On saturday, in a very hot, very crowded, very stuffy bus, I gave a homeless man one of the two nectarines I had purchased at the farmer’s market. He originally asked me for cash. I said I didn’t have any (Lie), but then offered him my groceries. This choice does not seem like a big deal on paper, but in real life it is shockingly hard to give up the things we perceive as “mine”. Giving the man my fruit did not immediately pop into my mind as an option. My first mental response was “I feel cornered by this guy sitting in front of me on the bus asking me for money, this is bullshit and I’m not giving him anything.” But he was also really dirty, carrying two heavy backbacks on a day where I was asking Kamel to carry my coat because it was just too hot to have any extra baggage. And after a minute, I thought about my life list and I thought about my goals, and compassion, and I wondered how often this man was able to eat fresh fruit. It was the only food I had on me, so I offered him both nectarines. He took one, and he wasn’t especially grateful, and that’s alright. It must really be difficult to not have the freedom to buy what you want, but to instead depend on what other people decide you should have.

I want to be a more giving person, I want to have more compassion for others, especially when they make me uncomfortable. Towards my goal of 1,000 random acts of kindness I have 2 so far.

1 purchased toll fare
1 gift of food to a homeless man

What can you do to help others? Do you want to help me help others? Let me know and let’s watch the count to 1,000 rise.

2 thoughts on “Adventure-ing: Random Acts of Kindness”

  1. First, you're lucky you don't live in New York. I don't give homeless people food any more, because in New York they will evaluate your food and then turn it down. Like, "I'm vegan, that's disgusting" or once, "Nah, that doesn't really look that good" to my $100 meal leftovers. Well. Great then.

    But! My Dad used to know someone in San Francisco that decided every year how much he was going to give to the homeless, took it all out in 20's, and then gave one 20 to every homeless person he saw till he was out. And he'd say, "Use it for whatever you want." That's pretty rad.

    And, um, finally? The fireman do not want teddy bears. But they do like baked goods. So bake for *them* already! After 9/11 I gave a lot of fireman flowers and free cupcakes as a thank you for saving my life, a man they are sexy when they smile happily back at you. That was a dark time, but man, the giving fireman stuff, after they'd just lost so many friends and loved ones, as a small thank you for my life… those were some really shining moments.

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